Our plants didn't fare too well when we went away for a week - I had them watered every second day but it was a relentlessly hot week in Melbourne and we arrived home to some sad and wilted-looking chillies, dried-up tomato plants and parched strawberries. Luckily we were able to revive almost all of the plants - and then came the rains, giving everything way more water than it actually needed (I have picked a lot of split tomatoes since then).
This weekend I made pesto from some of our basil and tossed some halved tommy toe tomatoes through the pasta just before eating. Sadly we are inbetween lettuce crops and had to use supermarket lettuce, but we did have a delicious supersize home-grown spring onion in our salad. I used to think it wasn't worth growing spring onions, but I've come to appreciate the benefits of having a few handy for when I run out of bought ones, and they deserve credit for being the one plant that insects, snails and birds don't attack.
My husband has been getting huge crops of chillies from his various plants, although some late-harvest varieties are yet to ripen. He has rocotos, cayennes, Thai, birdseye, habaneros, jalapenos and several others (I've kind of lost track of what they all are at this point - all I know is that they're everywhere, in little collections of pots in every corner of the front and back garden!). Here are the chillies that he and K picked yesterday:
And here is the sauce he made from them today, which he based partly on this sambal oelek recipe from Suburban Tomato (thanks, Liz!) and partly on another recipe which included coriander and palm sugar:
He seems very pleased with the results but I can't vouch for the sauce because, embarrassingly, I'm too chicken to try it - some of M's chillies are way too hot for my taste. I am, however, keeping a basket of chillies from last week's harvest to dry out and use in cooking:
Not sure if I'll string them together in bunches (tempting, because they look so beautiful) or just toss them in a jar (far more practical) but I'm sure these will provide me with all the dried chillies I need for the next year or so - while M's sauce will last him a few weeks at best. Not that he'll be chilli-less after that, because by then the rocotos will be ripening. The rocoto is a Venezuelan chilli that can grow to 10 feet in height (that's over 3 metres for those who speak metric) and is notable for having black seeds. Last year we kept some of these exotic-looking seeds and, late in the year, managed to get some of them to germinate - a very slow process; we had just about given up when they finally came up. And now M has a precious bunch of seedlings, which we really hope will survive the winter:
Far easier to propagate have been the strawberries, which sent out runners like crazy. To get more fruit you are supposed to cut them off, but as a novice gardener I found it all very exciting so I let them keep on making their baby strawberry plants. I filled little seedling pots with soil, weighed down the leafy parts of the runners with stones so they could take root in the soil and separated them from the mother plants once they had done so. I have loads of them now, and the plants are still producing more and more:
I have to admit, I have no idea what I should do with them over winter. Advice, anyone?